My friend Rick Segal has been cooking for 58 days straight now. Every night, he posts photos of his and his wife Becca’s dinner and, with the exception of from-scratch pizza a few times and chicken and waffles twice, he hasn’t cooked the same meal more than once.
It’s resulted in an impressive collection of dishes, which I’ll list in case you’re looking for dinner ideas: slow-smoked ribs, London broil, Korean bulgogi, Cornish game hen, tacos, General Tso’s chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, veal piccata, grilled pork chops, burritos, red lentil curry, chicken pot pie, Thanksgiving dinner, lasagna, streetcart-style chicken, meatloaf, wonton soup, beef with broccoli, tomato soup and grilled cheese, and kung pao chicken.
One day he made knishes. On another, sticky buns for a late-night snack. And then there was the day he made bourbon-infused chocolate brownies topped with vanilla ice cream.
That was a good day. Even to just look at the pictures.
In case you suspect Rick and Becca live in a bustling metropolis filled with gourmet grocery stores, they don’t. They live in Rutherfordton, N.C., population: 4,058. Yet, with the help of online sourcing and the very occasional trip to Asheville, Rick is able to get just about everything he needs locally. And we can in our small towns too (hint: visit your Asian market!).
Anyway, despite the gorgeous photos of what I know is gorgeous food, Rick has admitted to me that he is very, very sick of cooking.
But Becca is the CEO of a hospital in North Carolina, and they don’t want to increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19 any more than they have to. William and I are in the same boat. We’ve had takeout twice in 58 days, but otherwise, it’s been me in the kitchen.
To be clear, we are definitely supportive of people getting take-out or delivery, and we wish we could support our local restaurants more. But, for us, cooking at home just seems like the simplest option right now.
I will say, cooking during COVID is an interesting experience. Because I only grocery shop (and basically leave the house) once every two weeks, I’ve had to menu plan in a way that I never had before. It takes the spontaneity out of the process, but two great things have happened. First, the variety of our dishes has improved — I try to toss in Asian, Latin and European dishes on a regular basis. And second, I can’t believe how much time I save not going to the grocery store every other day.
Almost exclusively, I’ve relied heavily on online recipes from New York Times, Half Baked Harvest, Bon Appétit, Serious Eats, Barefoot Contessa, Fine Cooking, Smitten Kitchen and Food Network. With the exception of NYT, you can get all of the recipes for free, which still boggles my mind.
I haven’t been nearly as elaborate as Rick in my cooking, but we have had some really interesting dishes. Last night, I made fried rice after watching Chef David Chang’s Instagram video on how to do it. It was extremely easy and comforting and something I will definitely make again. A few nights ago, I made a black pepper Thai chicken dish from Half Baked Harvest that will likely make it into my binder of fave recipes. I’ve made Philly cheesesteaks, pizza, salmon rice bowls, tostadas, schwarma, penne à la vodka, pappardelle with orange and prosciutto, chicken cordon bleu, chicken pitas, chicken Milanese. For my birthday, William made me meatloaf with prunes and bacon. Then there was the night that we made homemade French fries, homemade mayo (easier than you’d think), chimichurri and skirt steak. It was a warm night, and afterward, we sat by the firepit and listened to music.
That was probably the best meal we’ve had.
I’d love to hear about what you’re cooking and what you’ve discovered in the kitchen while being at home. One thing I’ve learned is I’m terrible with my avocado timing. What’s the Jim Gaffigan joke? “Sometimes, to save time, I throw my avocados out at the grocery store.”
I buy them green, thinking it will give me some leeway, then I forget about them in my menu rotation, and by the time I remember about them again, they’re sad and squishy.
But I’ve learned a new way to crack my eggs. You crack them by cracking them against another egg. Unlike cracking them against the side of a bowl, you get fewer egg shell shards this way. Neat, right?
Anyway, I fear I’m getting nerdier by the minute here, so I’m going to sign off now. But please do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any recipes or cooking tips you’d like to share. In the meantime, I’ll keep staring at Rick’s dinner photos, and reminding myself that, yes, time is indeed passing and, soon, we can all eat together again.